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Plug In Drivers Not Missin' the Piston

This is the Kodak Moment for the Auto Industry. Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance and growth will continue....

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Internal Combustion Engine Jumps The Shark

The Preußen, a German steel-hulled five-masted ship-rigged windjammer built in 1902
The internal combustion engine jumps the shark, or to put it into terms from another transportation field, it enters the "More Sails" phase.

The first successful steam-powered vessels were built for use on canals and rivers in the early 1800s. Not long after, there were ocean-going hybrid ships with sails and steam. The steam engine didn't have to wait for the wind, could sail in any weather, and didn't have to jibe and tack. With these ships, new trans-Atlantic crossing record times were being set and more ships began incorporating steam engines.

Not all ship makers embraced the new technology. Some responded to the threat by doubling down on the legacy that they knew and loved. To compete with the record-setting times, they added more sails. This is when sails jumped the shark. The effort prolonged the demise, but did not prevent it. During the late 1800s, large sailing ships almost completely disappeared as steam power took over. The bulk of the transition occurred during just one century.

Internal combustion engines (ICE)

Much like the ships that added more sails, there are automakers today turning the ICE engineering to eleven in an attempt to prolong its life. In late 2017 Mazda announced a 'Holy Grail' breakthrough in engine tech with their Skyactiv-G high-compression gasoline engine. Similarly, Toyota made claims in February of this year that they had created the world's most thermally efficient 2.0-liter gas engine. They are not the only ones, despite dieselgate (more on that below), just weeks ago, Volkswagen's leader announced a "Diesel Renaissance" is on the horizon and Nissan has been talking about HCCI as the next great thing in engines since 2013. Occasionally, you'll see a story about rotary engines posed to take over... These are all signs of "more sails".

Engines are a mature technology. It's highly unlikely that there will be a breakthrough that greatly changes their fuel economy. Internal combustion engine tech is over 100 years old and it has had a lot of R&D sunk into it. There are fundamental limitations to combustion.

The headlines often say something like "New Engine 30% More Efficient" but this is very misleading. First, the results that you get in the ideal conditions of the lab are, just that, ideal (in a warmed up engine at optimal RPM...). In the real-world, this will be reduced, but for the sake of argument, let's assume they really have a 30% improvement. Gasoline engines are about 20% efficient. So a 30% improvement would mean 50% efficiency, right? Wrong. That headline means 30% better than 20%. This is what I call "marketing math". If you were at a restaurant and the bill was $20 and you left a generous 30% tip, that would be $6. Appling this to engines, you could call a 26% efficient engine 30% better than an engine that is 20% efficient. A headline that reads "6% improvement" does not get as many clicks as "30% improvement". If they are comparing the improvement to a lower efficiency starting point, marketing math can make the improvement percentage even higher.

Even in the unlikely event that an engine with a 50% thermal efficiency were to be created, it still would not compete with the 80 to 95% efficiency of its new rival, the electric motor. Even an efficient gasoline engine is still burning gasoline and emitting pollutants into the air where we live and breathe.

Model T vs Today

The original 1908 Ford Model T had a fuel efficiency of 21 MPG. Not including hybrids, the average fuel efficiency of the gasoline-powered cars on the road today is not much better than the original Model T. More than 100 years later there was no big breakthrough that allowed 200+ miles per gallon.


Emissions cheating is yet another symptom of the engine apostles clinging to the old technology and pushing it beyond its capabilities. Either the emissions requirements could be met, or the performance requirements, but not both. The majority of this press coverage focused on Diesel, but some gasoline engines were found to be using defeat devices as well.

As a society, we no longer want the health impacts or the environmental impacts that fossil fuel engines cause. Emission standards increased to reduce these impacts, but engine technology is just not capable of being something other than what it is, a combustion machine.

Hybrids Are Transitional

Just as the earliest Atlantic crossing ships to use steam engines were hybrids, some of the cars available today are a mix of traditional internal combustion and electric motors. The Toyota Prius was a landmark hybrid car. It nearly doubled the fuel economy of other cars at the time of its US introduction. Today, there are plug-in hybrids from many automakers. You can plug them into a standard outlet in your garage overnight and the next day the battery will be full. This allows you to drive some limited number of miles on electricity. Then when the battery is drained, it just uses gas from the tank and you never have to worry about mid-day charging.

Driving a plug-in hybrid allows you to enjoy many of the benefits of an all-electric vehicle without ever worrying about where you could plug-in. If you are not already driving all-electric or not ready to jump in with both feet, I would recommend that you get a plug-in hybrid as your next vehicle. Depending on the electric range, you could cut your gasoline usage in half. You'd get to experience the smooth quiet acceleration of an electric motor and still have the safety net of using gasoline when you need it.

Sailing Into The Sunset

The introduction of the steam engine to ships has many parallels to the electric motor's entry into cars.

Just as the first steamships were used on canals and rivers, many of the early electric cars of this generation were urban runabout or commuter cars with less than 100 miles of range. This class of electric car filled these niches very well, but they were not a general purpose vehicle.

Just as the first steam engines to cross the Atlantic did so as part of a hybrid vehicle design, the first "transcontinental" vehicles to utilize electric motors were hybrid cars.

It took nearly 100 years for the engine to fully replace sails. However, just as everything else happens faster in our modern era, transitions are speeded up too. Today the Chevy Bolt EV and the Tesla Model 3 are for sale. These are just the first of many long-range affordable electric cars that will be coming to market. Over the next decade, things will change radically.

ICE has jumped the shark. It is not dead yet, but the writing is on the wall. Don't let it take you, your career, or your business down with it. I'm not sure if engines will be history by 2030, 2050, or 2070, but this is the century of their demise. It's time to consider electric cars rather than putting more sails on your internal combustion vehicle.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Off-Grid or Grid-Tied: Which Is Greener?

If you have solar panels or you are considering them, congratulations you are helping make the world a cleaner place. After deciding to jump in, there are a few questions that you'll need to consider.

One of those questions is "Grid-tied or Off-grid?". In some cases, such as a cabin in the woods, connecting to the grid is not an option. Assuming that you're already on the grid, then you do have a choice whether or not you'll stay on-grid or go off-grid.

There are several factors that you should consider such as your energy needs, how often you have power blackouts, local laws, the energy storage costs...

A friend of mine has an off-grid system and he made the claim that it was "greener" than my on-grid system.

I wanted to examine this claim (heavily biased towards proving him wrong). The particulars of his system and mine are not that important; I'll try to focus on the bigger picture.

System Size and Backup Power

For a grid-tied system, you can install a PV system that accounts for only a portion of your energy needs. Any energy needs your home has when the sun is not shining will be provided by the grid. How green your local grid is, depends on where you live, but most of them are slowly improving. Many utilities have a green power option that supports their solar, wind, or geothermal projects.

For off-grid systems, the solar panels and batteries have to supply 100% of your energy needs unless you have a backup such as a generator. Backup generators are usually diesel or natural gas based. If these were being used, then an off-grid system would be less green than a grid-tied system.

To remove this drawback, let's assume that each of these systems are capable of powering your home 100%.

Which is greener? A minor advantage for grid-tied here since the backup could be cleaner.

Grid or Battery 

With a grid-tied system, during the day surplus energy is feed into the grid and runs your meter backward. This energy is then used by nearby demands (AKA, your neighbors). After the sun has set, a grid-tied system draws energy from the grid, unwinding some of the backspin from the meter.

With an off-grid system, when there is surplus generation, this is used to charge the batteries. The energy from the batteries is then used to power your home overnight. There is some minor loss of energy during the store and retrieve process.

Which is greener? A minor advantage for grid-tied here because it does not have the storage loss.

Seasonal Considerations

I live near the 47th parallel. We have a winter season here. We don't get a lot of snow, but there are many cloudy rainy days in the winter that don't generate much energy. On these days, even with a very large PV system, we would not be able to generate enough energy for our needs.

With an off-grid system, we'd be running generators on these days.

With a grid-tied system, we are able to use those summertime credits in the winter. Our state requires utilities to support annual net metering. This metering starts each year on April 1st. When the meter runs backward in the summer, you have all winter to use these stored kilowatt-hours. Additionally, there is less demand on the grid in the winter (air conditioners are not running) and the utility's wind turbines in the Columbia Gorge spin frantically during the winter months.

Which is greener? Again a minor advantage for grid-tied here.


An off-grid system requires batteries. These batteries have to be manufactured and transported. There are some environmental impacts for these activities. It is far less than connecting to a coal-plant, so it is worth it if you need them for a viable PV system.

If you don't need the batteries, because you are connected to the grid, you can avoid these (albeit minor) impacts and you can avoid the cost. You can used the saving to buy a larger PV system.

Which is greener? Again a minor advantage for grid-tied here.


Solar is great whether you are on-grid or off-grid, you are generating renewable energy from the sun.

There are reasons such as grid availability or reliability that you might consider including batteries in your PV system. However, if your reason to include batteries is that you think that makes it greener, then I disagree. You could even say that you want to have a Tesla Powerwall because you think they're cool, that's great. Feel free to get one (or two, or three). But don't claim that it somehow makes your PV system even greener.

As I said at the start, I might be biased since we don't have batteries in our system, but in every metric I've looked here, grid-tied systems have a slight advantage. The energy that they generate is always used immediately. The summer to winter delta is covered by net metering. And finally, on the cloudy days that don't supply enough solar energy, no generators need to be fired up.

While both systems are "green", grid-tied systems have a slightly darker tint of green.
(Take that Terry! 😄)

All that said, we might just add a Powerwall or two just for the fun tech of it. How cool would it be to have the only house on the block with power during the next winter storm.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Preparing to Tow With A Tesla Model X

One of the reasons that we bought a Model X rather than a Model S was so that we could tow our camper. Spring is coming and we'll be getting the camper out soon to prep it for our summer fun.

In addition to pulling the camper, the tow package has other advantages too. We can mount the bike rack there and we can rent a trailer if we need to move large items or hardscape. I had been driving a Honda Passport to pull the camper. I traded it in for the Model X. There were a few things I had to learn when we switched to towing with the Model X.

The optional tow package comes with a proprietary hitch receiver. I suggest installing the receiver and hitch before you need it so you can take your time and learn how to do it. The unit has a twist lock system that installs vertically, this is different than any that I've used previously. Here's a video that explains the twist lock system. Once you figure out how it works, it's nice, but here is a small learning curve.

At the rear of the car, there's a cover underneath that removes to expose the dock for the hitch receiver. This dock is attached to the frame. This is where you insert the hitch receiver. Once it is installed, you have to lock it into the dock.

There are three main parts to this process:
  1. Hitch Receiver - This is the part that Tesla supplies when you buy the tow package. It comes in a zip case; sometimes referred to as a hitch box
  2. Ball Mount - This is the bar that goes into the Hitch Receiver; sometimes called ball mount shank or hitch bar. Sold separately.  
  3. Hitch ball - This is what the trailer attaches to. Sold separately
The Tesla Hitch Receiver (US) installed in the dock, ready to accept a 2" ball mount/hitch bar.
Tesla Hitch Receiver Installed, photo by David Pullen
In the US, there are three common sizes of trailer hitch balls, 1 7/8", 2", and 2 5/16". The 2" ball is the most common for light trailers and the size we used with our Model X. In addition to the ball, you will need a mount which fits in the 2" receiver which holds the ball at the correct height for the trailer to be level, and pins to secure the mount. You can buy the ball mount and ball separately and assemble them, or you can buy a kit like this one that comes preassembled with both of them plus the pull pin and cotter pin. I recommend a kit.

2" Hitch Ball, Ball Mount, and Reciever 

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as just installing the ball mount. The bumper of the Model X is lower than it is on most trucks, so to put the ball at the right height, you have to flip the ball mount over and remount the ball such that it is raised, rather than dropped.

To get the ball loose from the receiver and to remount it, you are going to need a really big wrench.
Reese Towpower 74342 Hitch Ball Wrench
After you have the ball mounted in the raised position, I suggest that you lock the threads with Loctite Red or a similar product. This will be rattling around for miles and miles, a little loctite is a good idea.
Loctite 262 Red Threadlocker

Now that you have the receiver installed and the ball at the right height. It's time to look at the electrical connection. The Model X only has one type of trailer electrical hookup, the 7-way round electrical connection. If your camper or trailer uses the same type, you're ready to go. If, however, your trailer uses a 4-pin electrical connector, then you'll need an adapter like this one.
Reese Towpower 7-Way to 4-Way Wiring Adapter

Next on the list are the safety chains. One thing that I didn't like about the Model X tow setup, was the location of the safety chain connectors. They are very hard to reach. This made hooking and unhooking the camper a difficult job. You can see where they are located in this photo:
Photo by Dan Patrick via ‎Tesla Model X Towing Club
To avoid sliding under the car every time I wanted to connect or disconnect the safety chains, I installed a pair of safety chain extensions. These are rated for 8000 lbs, while the X is only rated for 5000 lbs, so I feel safe using them and it makes the connect/disconnect process much easier.
Safety Chain Extensions

That's it for the basics. You are ready to hook up and roll.

For the pro-towers, here's one bonus tip. If you expect to tow for more than 1000 miles each year, I'd consider adding a Hitch Tightener like this one. It will stabilize the ball mount and stop it from wobbling in the receiver. This will make it smoother, quieter, and reduce wear. Live the adventure!
Hitch Tightener for 2" Hitch
Special thanks to the Tesla Towing Facebook page. I learned much of this from them.


Friday, February 23, 2018

10 Years of EV Driving (Part 8 - Goodbye Prius, Hello Tesla)

Our gradual path to a 100% EV household.

This is the story of our home fleet slowly electrifying. It all began in 1999 when my wife's Subaru was hit by a driver that ran a red light and we replaced that car with a Prius. This chapter has some parallels to that first one.

One afternoon in February of 2016, my wife and I were headed to pick up our daughter after school. On the way there, a rideshare driver, apparently rushing to pick up a fare, ran a stop sign and struck my wife's car. She was driving her Prius. The airbags deployed and the car was totaled. Long story short, lawyers became involved and the case was settled.

With the Prius gone, we still needed two cars to get around. My wife took over the keys to the Leaf and I was relegated to the old Honda Passport SUV. After driving electric cars for years it was strange to be driving a gas vehicle again. This could not stand. I needed a plug-in vehicle.

The Prius was gone and now it was obvious that the Passport had to go too. The Leaf worked great for commuting and errands, but it could not pull our pop-up camper, nor was it suited to long-distance treks. To replace these two, we need something that can tow and had long range.

The vehicle that I had in mind was the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid. With 30 miles of electric range and then 40 MPG in hybrid mode, the specs for this vehicle looked great on paper. However, I had been watching and waiting for this vehicle since 2013 and it was yet to make its US debut.

Next for our consideration was the Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-In Hybrid. This vehicle had an all-electric range of 17 miles and an MPG of 53 in hybrid mode. The electric range was too short for my round trip work commute and the price tag was nearly $70k. If I were going to spend $70k, I might as well get the vehicle that I really wanted, a Tesla Model X.

After a couple weeks of research, later in that same month that the Prius was destroyed, we placed a reservation for a Tesla Model X. The car could tow 5,000 lbs and it had a 257-mile range. In Sept of 2016, I drove the Passport for the last time and with a gas tank as empty as my desire to buy the gasoline needed to fill it, I handed the keys over as a trade for my new Tesla.

This was it, we were now an EV-only family. No more trips to the gas station. No more oil changes.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tesla's Clever Plan to Time The 200k US Delivery

We've been tracking Tesla's 200,000th US vehicle delivery here for over a year. This is an important delivery since it will trigger the countdown to the phaseout of the federal EV tax credit.

Our latest estimate is that Tesla will cross the 200k mark in June of this year. Since the incentive operates on 3-month increments (quarters of a year), it is much more beneficial to EV buyers if the 200k mark is crossed in the beginning of a quarter than at the end of a quarter. If our estimate is correct and Tesla would cross the mark in June, it would be much better for their US customers if they delayed this event a few weeks and waited until July to cross the 200k mark. This will give their customers nearly 3 more months of the full $7500 federal tax incentive.

Elon Musk has commented that Tesla would do the right thing for their customers in this regards. Here's his tweet from 2016:

Now that the day is approaching, how will Tesla "beget loyalty"? The answer is to delay the 200k delivery into early Q3. This would mean that the full $7500 tax credit would last until the end of 2018. This will allow many more buyers to enjoy the full incentive as their production will be in much higher gear by the end of the year.

Additionally, I like the poetry of delivering the milestone car on July 4th; making it an "End Dependence" day. Perhaps Tesla could hold an event and deliver dozens of Red, White, & Blue cars that day. Topped off with a big evening flying droneworks (rather than fireworks) show (after all drones are electric vehicles).

Red, White, & Blue Teslas
Specifically, how would Tesla bump the milestone delivery into July? There are two things that have recently happened that potentially hint at Tesla's plan.

1) Some Canadian Model 3 reservation holders are reporting that their delivery estimation dates have changed from Late 2018 to Mid 2018. Diverting a couple weeks worth of Model 3 production to our neighbor to the North would allow Tesla to move the US milestone delivery out.

2) Tesla has delayed the Model X deliveries. Earlier this month (Feb 2018), many people began to notice that the delivery estimate for new Model X orders had moved from the typical 6 weeks to "June 2018". There is a speculation that this is for a Model X refresh. This speculation may be right, Tesla could be using this time when they need to temporarily slow down deliveries to refresh their high-end vehicle. The Model 3 has, for example, a much more responsive touchscreen and a better sound system. This feature "inversion" has to be resolved soon. A vehicle that costs ~twice as much should have at least as good of a touchscreen. Putting a gap between the current Model X and the refreshed X does two things: one, it allows the current inventory to sell before the refresh is announced, this avoids the need to discount the current stock and second, it helps delay the 200k vehicle by a couple months of Model X deliveries.

These are the two things that Tesla could be doing to time the golden ticket. If this is their plan, I say bravo and congratulations to the lucky Canadians that will be getting their cars sooner and (if the rumors are true) to the soon to be Model X owners that will be receiving an upgraded car in July of this year. And most importantly, to everyone that takes delivery of a Model 3 in October, November, and December of this year and qualifies for the entire $7500 incentive instead of just $3750.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tesla Competition: Culture Eats Strategy!

Tesla Roadster 2020
If you read traditional auto press, you'll frequently see stories along the lines of "big automakers are going to start making EVs in a couple years and when they do, Tesla is doomed."

Traditional automakers have the resources, factories, and engineers to design electric cars and they are very good at manufacturing, so, on the surface, this "Tesla's doomed" statement seems logical, but it is completely wrong. I'll explain why.

For the legacy automakers, there is a phrase that applies: Culture Eats Strategy!

For over a decade now, many automakers have been announcing EVs "coming soon." Like “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie, it's always a day away, or in this case 3 to 4 years away. As I write this in Feb 2018, you can find multiple press releases for EVs coming in 2021.

Toyota has announced plans for EVs multiple times that have resulted in half-hearted low volume offerings at best. If they really jumped into EVs with both feet, they could be a significant threat to Tesla's future. But they can't turn the ship. Toyota's revenue sources are gas and hybrid cars and trucks. And Toyota has years of R&D sunk into fuel cells. They have a culture of designing, manufacturing, and selling these gas and hybrid cars. They have been very successful doing this. Success detours change.

If you are in a failing company, it is obvious that you need to pivot. If you're on a path to failure, nearly any alternative looks like a better option. If, however, you are on top and things are going well, it is far more difficult to see the need to change course. The Kodak view of ignoring upstarts is far more common when things are going well. Find a few flaws with the current generation of competitive technology and you can erroneously use them to dismiss the entire category, present and future.

The world has changed. Millennials will not live or drive like boomers. Emission standards are higher than ever. Many cities will have emission-free zones and many countries have announced plans to become fossil fuel free. Strategies that were successful in the last five or more decades are not likely to be successful in the next decade. To borrow from Marshall Goldsmith’s book, what got you here won't get you there.

Toyota is just one example but this could apply to most legacy automakers. If they cannot adapt to the sea change that is happening, the market will pass them by. Their past success is their biggest hurdle to taking the company in a new strategic direction.

Success can blind a company to the need to change for market factors that will impact the bottom line in the long run.
A senior executive can say, "We're making EVs and they will be out in 3 years!", but if no one in the company believes in the vision because they have built their careers on hybrid technologies or optimizing combustion engines, then there will be little or no progress on the announced strategic direction. Culture Eats Strategy.

You might argue that this applies to Toyota or Honda, but what about companies like GM and Nissan that have put EVs on the market in a big way?

GM has the Volt and the Bolt EV on the market. Both are great plug-in cars. In the race to an affordable long-range EV, the Bolt even beat the Model 3 to market by a year. Yet 400,000 stood in line to wait for the Model 3. Whereas GM sold about 23,000 Bolts in 2017. GM has the capability to produce hundreds of thousands of cars. Why don't they have people standing in long lines for their EV? GM is not a pure play. Their dealerships often divert people to other cars when they come in and ask about a Volt or Bolt. They cannot market the environmental benefits of their plug-in cars without making every other car that they sell look bad. And finally, GM has refused to invest in EV infrastructure. They are car makers, not a fueling company. They participate in the standard, but infrastructure deployment is someone else's problem. Culture Eats Strategy.

If you want to launch an entirely new way to drive, you have to consider the entire user experience. That might mean doing somethings that are different than what you've done in the past. Despite their resources and the fact they are selling EVs, they have been unable to adapt. They don't have a culture of providing fueling solutions, so it is not even on the table for these new vehicles.

Fiat's CEO has time and time again said that no one wants to buy an EV and that they lose money on every car that the California zero-emission mandate requires them to sell. They are making only a de minimis effort. Rather, they should have taken this "requirement" and turned it into an opportunity. Fiat owns the Ferrari and Alpha Romeo brands. If they would have made a high performance, long-range sporty or luxuries (or both) EV, it could have commanded a high enough price to offset the battery cost. It might have been a car that excited people. Instead, they made an EV version of the tiny Fiat 500 and only sold it in ZEV states. This is known as a "compliance car." Here culture actively fought against a new strategy.

Talking about Tesla, Ford's CEO, Mark Fields (ousted in 2017) said, "We have driven the Model S, torn it down, put it back together, and driven it again. We’re very familiar with that product." Yet Ford does not make anything like the Tesla Model S. The Model S was Car of the Year in 2013. That's five years ago. Where is the proof that Ford learned anything from the disassembled Tesla? Where are the over-the-air updates? Where are the big touchscreens? Where are the long-range electric cars? Where are the coast-to-coast charging networks?

BMW, Ford, Mercedes, and Volkswagen have all reverse engineered Tesla's vehicles. They know the technology, Tesla's patents are open source, there is nothing that these legacy automakers could not produce. Yet they don't. It is not in their culture to take risks. For the legacy automakers, what's past is prologue.

So when I hear statements like, Tesla is doomed as soon as <insert legacy automaker> gets serious about EVs. I know that they will not "get serious" about EVs while they are still making money on the gas cars that they are currently selling. Only after they are no longer profitable with combustion engines will they have the epiphany that they need to "get serious". While they dwell on the status quo and attempt to delay the arrival of the future, Tesla continues to position themselves for that future.

This fret and delay by the legacy automakers grants Tesla a lot of runway. It gives Tesla time to build out their battery and vehicle production capacity, time to build out their charging network, time to bring more product lines to market, time to build customer brand loyalty, and time to establish themselves as the leaders in the electric vehicle space. I am long Tesla.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

10 Years of EV Driving (Part 7 - GL-LEAF-FULL)

In part 6, I met with executives and engineers from Nissan and told them what was important to me in an EV. In the summer of 2009, I found out more about what they were planning. Nissan announced the Nissan LEAF with many of the things that we'd asked for. In December of that year, we got to see the Leaf in person. They had a static display at OMSI. This event was similar to the one that we'd attended there for the Toyota Prius eight years before. After seeing the car, I put down my $99 reservation and picked out my color (red).

Almost a year later, in November of 2010, I was finally able to drive one. Nissan had a ride & drive event touring around the country. The one near us was in the parking lot of the massive Solar World factory in Hillsboro, OR. We took the car for a spin, it was peppy, quiet, and fun. I was sold. This was going to be my next car. The only thing I was not sure of was my color choice.

At the event, we got to see all the colors they offered. I still like the red car but the chrome accents on the car had a blue tint and, to me, it didn't go well with the red paint. If I had a "chrome delete" done to the car, I think the red would have looked great, but with the "blue chrome", I liked the look of the black and the blue cars.

Now, the waiting began. Every week or so (I admit, occasionally daily), I would log in to the Nissan ordering page and check on my car's status and I would usually change the color. I was still not sure if I wanted red, black, or blue. This went on for months; then one day in early 2011, I was doing my usual routine of logging in, checking the status changing the color and I was surprised to see that the color was now locked down. I could no longer change the paint color. My (blue) car was going into production!

On March 10th, 2011, six hundred Nissan LEAFs which left port in Japan on their way to the US and my car was one of them. This was the day before the island country that built my car was rocked by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

On May 18th of 2011, after arriving in port in California and being trucked up the west coast, it was time to pick up my car.
Delivery day for a brand new 2011 Nissan Leaf
This car was great. With 72 miles of range, this was nearly double the range of the 40-mile range truck that I had been driving. This was the first new car that I'd ever bought. Previously, I bought used cars. The Prius from Part 1 new, but that was my wife's car. This one was mine. It had keyless entry, a backup camera, and an app that let me pre-heat or cool the car. It was great.

As for the Leaf's place in automotive history, this car was monumental. Today the Leaf is often overshadowed in the press by the likes of the Tesla Model 3 or the Chevy Bolt, but it is important to point out the historical achievement that the Leaf represented when it was delivered in 2011. This was not a low volume car that was only available for lease by "influencers" in California. It was being delivered to all 50 states and around the world. It was an affordable, all-electric, practical car. It was not a strange 3-wheeler, it was not 100 thousand dollars. It held the promise of replacing a significant number of gas cars that were on the road at that time. It was not the car for everyone, but for a large number of commuters, this car would be perfect.

I drove this car up and down the West Coast Electric Highway in the northwest. Oregon and Washington state were installing DC fast charging stations that worked with the Leaf. This allowed me to drive to Great Wolf Lodge and to Spirit Mountain. I wrote 35, and 6-year reviews of the car.

As monumental as the Leaf was, it was not perfect. Their batteries suffered from degradation, especially in hot regions. Nissan had the early mover advantage in the affordable, all-electric market, but they did not maintain a fast pace of innovation. They made only small incremental changes. Even after the battery degradation problems became apparent, Nissan did not redesign the car to use an active liquid cooling system. They made only small incremental improvements to the range, with the 2017 model having a 107-mile range.

Today, we still have our 2011 Leaf, and I'll be writing my 7-year review soon, but we plan to trade it in on a new 200+ mile EV later in 2018.

Going back to 2011, with the Leaf added to our home fleet, we now had a spectrum of vehicles. There was the all-electric Leaf, the hybrid Prius, and a gas powered Honda Passport SUV. We could use whichever vehicle met our needs for a given trip. The Leaf for commuting, the Prius for treks, and the SUV for ski trips or pulling our pop-up camper.

But this entire saga is how our garage became all-electric. For the conclusion, you'll have to read part 8 where the Prius gets a Passport to the wrecking yard in the sky.